Secretary of Defense lifts all restrictions on transgender service members

Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter announcing the restrictions on transgender military have been lifted. (DoD)

The Secretary of Defense announced this afternoon that all transgender military personnel will be allowed to serve without facing separation or disbarment from service.

In July of 2015, Secretary Carter commissioned a study which was conducted with the partnership of medical professionals and the Rand Corporation- the American nonprofit global policy think tank that offers research and analysis to the United States Armed Forces.

Before entering any branch of service, the new policy states transgender must be certified by a doctor as stable in their new gender for at least eighteen months.

It is difficult to estimate the number of transgender personnel currently in the military due to current policies and a lack of empirical data.

According to Rand estimates, there are 1,320 to 6,630 transgender service members currently serving on active duty.

Secretary Carter offered three reasons for making this decision that was backed by “senior military leaders.”

Carter said the military needs to make itself available to the best talent (people) possible so it is necessary to remove barriers related to qualification that can bar them from service.

“We need access to 100% of America’s population,” he said.  While he did use the term “100%,” he did not mention lifting other entrance restrictions that affect minority groups that make up a larger proportion of the population than transgender.

The second reason was quite simple: there are already transgender soldiers serving. Carter elaborated on the issues the military has when dealing with transgender people serving because of a lack of information, policies, and protocols.

“I owe commanders better answers on how to deal with them,” Carter said.

The issue of no available medical treatment to transgender has forced them to work outside the military medical system, at their own expense.

Carter said that this is inconsistent with the promise of medical care that was made to all service members when they sign up.

The Secretary’s third reason was what he referred to as a matter of principle; “Americans who want to serve should be allowed,” he said.

His statement, while fitting for his argument, encompasses many other groups that are forced to separate from service and who are barred from enlistment or becoming officers.

For example, one service member who was separated for Post-Traumatic Stress related issues suggested that he should be allowed to re-enlist because gender dysmorphia is a mental illness.

The military lifted all restrictions related to transgender despite the American Psychiatric Association listing gender dysmorphia within their publication, the “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.”

The Rand Corporation was instructed to conduct their study with the presumption that “transgender can serve openly unless practical impediments exist,” according to Carter.

The study looked at transgender currently serving in the US armed forces and eighteen other ally countries who allow transgender to serve, such as the United Kingdom, Israel, and Australia.

Rand’s analysis found that transgender openly serving will have little impact on the military and the healthcare costs would be an exceeding small proportion of the overall cost.

Carter announced that he has clear expectations for how his plan will be implemented after this historic change for the U.S. military.

“Declaring a policy is not an effective plan,” he said.

Commanders will have access to immediate guidance and a leader guidebook will be issued within no more than ninety days.

All service members will be required to complete training related to transgender (the exact nature of the training was not announced) within one year.

“I’m 100% confident our leaders and service members will be able to implement these changes,” said Carter.

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